Wilson H Tour Review
With the arrival of Wilson's H Tour tennis racquet the wait is finally over for players seeking a replacement for the now discontinued Wilson Hammer 5.2. Just in case you weren't aware that this is the racquet to replace the Hammer 5.2, Wilson treated the H Tour to the same hot orange paint. However, the H Tour's appearance is slightly more reserved than the Hammer 5.2 - with the hot orange paint limited to the inside of the throat, a dash at 3 and 9 on the hoop, and on the Hammer graphics. Like the Hammer 5.2, the Wilson H Tour has an almost even balance, a 95 square-inch head and a 16/20 string pattern. However, as our playtest team found, once out on the courts the similarities between the Hammer 5.2 and the H Tour begin to fade.
Read on to find out the results of our three-week playtest.
With its almost even balance, open string pattern and 327 (RDC) swingweight, the Wilson H Tour has the stats to be a solid baseline contender. Our playtesters mostly agreed. Don found the H Tour to play heavier than its static weight of only 10.8 ounces suggests. "I found a nice balance of maneuverability and substance, which made for a solid feel. It fit my medium-fast swing perfectly, providing a little more power than control and a slightly cushioned feel. I was able to generate good power, yet still felt I could guide the ball wherever I needed, and the extra quarter-inch of length was imperceptible to me." Playtester Michelle, who previously used the Wilson SledgeHammer 2.3, was surprised at the feel of the H Tour when she first picked it up. "When I heard we were playtesting a Hammer, I expected something very different from this," said Michelle. Holding the H tour up for closer inspection she said, "this plays differently to any Hammer I've used, but I've never played with the 5.2 Hammer it replaces. When I first hit with this racquet I struggled to generate enough power. It wasn't that the sweet spot was not generous as I found even off-center hits still had some depth, it was just that I couldn't find the same pace and power as with my old Wilson 2.3 or my current Head iX.3 racquet. The good thing about hitting with the H Tour was that rarely did I over-hit my approach shots or mid-court shots during doubles play." Mark was also a little surprised Wilson classified this racquet as part of their Hammer series. "The H Tour lacks the power and stability I look for in a racquet, especially a Hammer racquet, mainly due to insufficient weight in the racquet head. How does a racquet with this balance point qualify as a Hammer?" Chris hit with the H Tour and the Hammer 5.2 in a back to back comparison for the three-week playtest. He said, "I usually like head-light racquets, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed hitting with the H Tour and the Hammer 5.2. I think the H Tour definitely benefits from some extra heft over its predecessor, making for a more comfortable and solid hit. I felt like there was plenty of topspin potential with both racquets, but I think the extra heft of the H Tour would be more appealing to players who like to grind it out from the baseline." Combined Score 74
The light 10.8 ounce static weight of the H Tour combined with its almost even balance made for a maneuverable package at net. Granville soon settled into volleying with the H Tour. "I hit good solid volleys with the H tour. I found it maneuverable enough to really be aggressive and I am pleased to see that Wilson is moving the balance point closer to mid-stick for its player's Hammer." Michelle had mixed feelings at net with the H Tour. "The H tour felt light, easy to maneuver and I found some power on my volley, but I did have some slight twisting of the racquet if I caught volleys late or near the edge of the frame." Also finding the H Tour maneuverable at net was Mark. He said, "most of the volleys I hit felt really good. I was able to place them where I wanted with pretty good power. I had trouble when I missed the sweet spot though. The H Tour wasn't very stable on off-center hits and I felt a significant loss of power on balls that were even slightly mis-hit. In my opinion, the H Tour doesn't have enough mass in the head to provide stability on off-center hits." Comparing the H Tour to the Hammer 5.2 Chris said, "the H Tour is more stable than its predecessor at net and is still very maneuverable even though it has more heft. I enjoyed volleying with this racquet, finding it predictable on both high put-a-ways and low pick ups and half-volleys." Combined Score 75
As none of our playtesters currently use a racquet with an even balance, it took them surprisingly little time to adjust to the H Tour. Michelle and Mark both enjoyed serving with the H Tour, but found it lacking a little pop. "I was able to serve very consistently with the H Tour," said Michelle, "but I was missing some of the power I get with my SledgeHammer 2.3. I noticed my opponents were attacking my first serve more than usual. The upside was that I felt more confident going for adventurous second serves. A few times when I was up in a game I would hit second serves at first serve speed. I felt like I had a pretty good success rate with my faster second serves." Mark also found excellent control on his serves, saying "I was able to place my flat, spin and kick serves with good accuracy. I was also able to generate good spin on my slice and kick serves. While the H Tour provided good control, it was a little lacking in power. I felt like I was serving hard, but the balls kept coming back. Even when I hit the lines my opponent seemed to have plenty of time to get to the ball. I wore myself out trying to hit the ball harder." Both Don and Granville noted a slight adjustment period to the balance of the H Tour when serving. Granville said, "after adjusting to the different balance of the H Tour compared to my Hyper ProStaff 6.1, I was getting good speed on my serves with a similar amount of effort. Once I was dialed in, I was able to hit pretty big serves without additional thought or effort." Don, who also plays with a head light racquet said, "I found the H Tour good to very good on most serves. I was able generate adequate power on flat first serves, and I felt confident hitting second serves due to the spin potential of the open string pattern." Comparing the H Tour with the Hammer 5.2, Chris said, "the serve was the one shot where I'd give the Hammer 5.2 the advantage over the H Tour. I felt the H Tour just didn't have as much potential for really whipping the racquet head through on the serve as I found with the Hammer 5.2, and which I enjoy with most head light racquets. That said, the H Tour does offer plenty of spin potential for kick and slice serves, while also offering decent power for flat serves down the T or jamming serves into the body." Combined Score 73
Maneuverable and with a stiffer construction than the Hammer 5.2, the H Tour should be well suited to returns of serve. For the most part, our playtesters agreed. Don found the H Tour to perform more like a 'tweener racquet' on the return saying, "I could set the racquet and block back big first serves without the racquet getting knocked around. On slower serves I could take a swing and hit an offensive return. I felt my returns, typically a weakness of mine, improved with the H Tour." When returning, Granville found the H Tour to be "a bit cumbersome, perhaps due to balance considerations, but solid when hitting out in front. If you have time to swing out and go for the winner you should be rewarded with a comfortable and controlled response." As with her groundstrokes, Michelle found a consistent response from the H tour when returning. "It was returning that I enjoyed the most when playing with the H Tour," said Michelle, "I would rarely miss my returns with this racquet, but I couldn't seem to get enough power to hit aggressive returns." Mark found that he had to stay very aggressive when returning with the H Tour. He said, "returns that I had to block back fell short due to the low power level of the H Tour. Any balls that missed the sweet spot would overpower the racquet. I had more success returning kick serves and slow spin serves. I was able to get the racquet head to the ball quickly, and the lower power level of the H Tour let me take a full swing without worrying about control." As with the Hammer 5.2, Chris was "comfortable blocking, chipping and driving returns of serve with the H Tour. The only time I had trouble was when trying to drive my return against a heavy serve. I found the racquet head had a tendency to twist in this situation on both backhands and forehands." Combined Score 71
The H Tour, with Wilson's new ISO Grid construction, seems a step in the right direction as an update and replacement for the now discontinued Hammer 5.2. Our playtesters found a racquet with more upper hoop stability than the Hammer 5.2, but perhaps still lacking the solid feel of other player's racquets. The H Tour's increased swingweight was also a welcome addition among our playtesters and should suit players who like to start their points from the baseline. However, the H Tour is maneuverable enough to appeal to all-court players seeking a racquet with a close to even balance. Combined Score 73
Review date: June, 2003. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.